Mini Me - Running a Cooper S

I don’t like shopping at all, if I can get something online then I’ll go ahead and do that. I’m not one for manoeuvring busy shop floors, queuing for changing rooms, politely telling staff that I really am just browsing. All of that goes completely out the window when it comes to car purchase, the excitement builds so much that I struggle to sleep before visiting a dealership. It’s a privilege to like cars and have the means to be in a position to buy one so you can imagine when the opportunity arose nothing else in life mattered - at that point my future car could’ve been anything I desired as I had the whole second hand car market to myself.

I mentioned in a previous post that I went on secondment for a few years abroad and needed to ship a car over as they also drove on the same side as the UK. The GT86 (my unicorn) was still slightly over budget so it was back to the drawing board. I’ve always been into hot hatches and in particular Minis. I had owned an F56 Cooper S on a lease and in the family we still have a face lifted R53 Cooper. I was slightly time pressured, or so I told myself, and wanted a quick purchase without having to travel around the country for one. Car Giant was an obvious choice as I had purchased cars from there before and was fortunate in terms of their condition and reliability - it can be a gamble and it’s not quite the “pick and choose blindfolded and you’ll be alright” peace of mind a franchise dealer can offer but analyzing a potential choice just adds to the experience.

As a car person I love checking it over as if I’m Mike Brewer, since it gives me a sense of achievement when I’ve bought something and it’s turned out to be trouble free - well that and Car Giant’s multi-point checks. Also let’s not forget that you can go in the morning and a few hours later actually drive home! When buying a car surely the first thing to do is grab the keys and drive home - this is actually the main reason I like it so much.

So after a few clicks I found a perfect R56 Cooper S registered in Feb 2014 with only one previous owner and 22,000 miles on the clock. It was actually the very last run before the F56 came out. It had all the right options, JCW aero package, bi-xenons, black on black interior and the face lifted version of PSAs 1.6 turbo. And all mine for £10k back in Feb 2017. I also notice the subtle BMW DNA in the Minis which keeps drawing me back to them. The retro design coupled with a sorted chassis, sophisticated suspension and depth of engineering is well in keeping with the Mini legacy (it’s not all about the looks).
It also kept some of the original fun of the R56 with the speedo still in the middle, small proportions with letterbox windows and a body that wrapped around the driver instead of submerging them.

The engine is also a gem with that PSA unit feeling more potent than it’s 1.6 litres would have you believe and it’s very free revving and does a good job of charging towards the red line. Typically turbo engines can go all the way to their rev limiter but do so begrudgingly, but this Cooper S was more than happy to charge forwards and sing about it on the way there. You also got the pops and bangs on the overrun but they somehow felt more natural as you only got them in certain instances when exuberance kicked in, I find that with some newer cars the “added character” is a bit too clinically engineered in with pops and bangs on every throttle uplift.

I’ll aim to post a full review later of what it was like to drive especially against having a later F56. I bought the R56 after the F56 so no surprises for guessing what my opinion about them is. The best part about the Mini was the cost of ownership. Selling it after two years & c.8k miles with the cost of two services, insurance, road tax, four tyres, shipping costs, registration taxes and a replacement windscreen washer bottle the car ended up costing me 350 euros per month plus petrol.

A great car for the money and at today’s prices I would try and grab an R56 Cooper S John Cooper Works. Fast even by today’s standards, the best looking Mini out of all the generations to date and you get the slightly more DTM style exhaust out the back rather than the chrome item on the standard Cooper S. Oh and make sure it’s a face lifted one as the interior plastic inserts and switches are black rather than silver - a small detail but makes all the difference. Happy hunting.